SNP isn’t doing well but Nicola Sturgeon seems as secure in power as Marshall Tito with Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard failing to hold the Scottish Government to account, writes Kevan Christie
Has anyone seen Richard Leonard?
You know, the guy who runs Scottish Labour – got the gig in November 2017, he’s a Mod, likes his music and that. I’m a bit worried about him and want him to get in touch, just to let us know he’s alright.
No doubt he’s fine but I wonder how he spends his days. Does he meet-up with other Labour folk, like Neil Findlay, Ian Murray and Monica Lennon for a coffee now and again in a greasy spoon – like the losing team in The Apprentice?
Maybe they argue over who’s fault the disastourous showing in the European elections was while proclaiming that the Tunnock’s Caramel Wafers are “for the many, not the few”.
I certainly haven’t seen Richard in Dobbies scoffing traybakes and buying synthetic red roses lately. Maybe he feels that his time is better spent browsing record shops like Vinyl Villains and Groucho’s in Dundee for rare groove jazz records and stuff by mid-60s American garage bands like The Electric Prunes, who he’s fond of. Maybe he’s wandering through the badlands of deepest West Lothian, places like Fauldhoose and Blackburn, where they kept the nuclear weapons during the Cold War, passing on his wisdom like David Carradine in the old television show Kung Fu.
“Master I am puzzled - that is the beginning of wisdom,” he might mumble.
Anyhoo – we could all do with hearing from him a bit more and I really hope he’s not been hiding out in the museum like a kid skivving school – while trying to get away from all this politics stuff that’s been going on.
One things for sure – he’s not laid a glove on the SNP. Not a mark on a Scottish Government who have presided over record drug deaths and hospital waiting times, issues that should be meat and drink for the Labour Party.
Now, I’m sure Richard’s a decent guy and I know he inherited a dysfunctional mess after the eight previous incumbents made a pig’s ear of things but he’s looking increasingly like a busted flush. And that’s being kind, given that he showed very little promise to begin with and seems to have been elected to the gig on account of being Corbyn’s mucker.
Other leaders like Kezia ‘Kez’ Dugdale ended up looking surly in the jungle, Jim Murphy beacme the patron saint of egg throwers, something he weirdly seemed to enjoy, and Johann ‘Cruyff’ Lamont hardly captured the imagination of the voters.
Go back futher to a time Labour mattered, before the monumental gubbing at the hands of the SNP in the 2011 Scottish Parliament election and the quality of leader was marginally better.
Granted, Iain Gray always looks like he’s about to ask if he can “go and play on the swings” but the likes of Jack McConnell and Wendy Alexander were intellectual heavyweights in comparison to the rum bunch who came after ...
So, why does any of this matter?
Well, at some point you’d like to think that one of the ‘major’ parties in Scotland might be able to challenge Nicola Sturgeon who has now been in office almost as long as Yugoslavia’s Marshall Tito (or it’s starting to feel like that anyway).
“Hold on, stop the bus – did you just compare our dear leader to a communist revolutionary turned benign(-ish) dictator? You can’t do that – throw him down the well.”
Anyway, Tito was seen as a unifying figure at home and abroad – and my point is the SNP will be in power for decades unless someone gets their finger out and comes up with a viable plan to unseat them.
As it stands, Nicola – one word like Madonna – has a job for life, one that should easily take her and her well-thumbed copy of Sunset Song into the err – the Sunset?
I will say this for Nicola – she has presence. Presence is what’s required with political leaders, especially with regard to opposition leaders in Scotland where the SNP are dominant.
Richard Leonard, like the majority of Scottish Labour leaders who went before him, has zero presence to the point of making that Nice Man Willie Rennie seem charismatic.
And there’s the rub. Labour no longer do leadership.
Perhaps, they see it as a bit crass to have a popular leader in Scotland, one who can hold the SNP to account. A bit Lewis Capaldi that, when they’d much rather stick a poster of The Beta Band on their bedroom walls.
We’re not talking populist here, just someone folk can identify would be a start, so they don’t look quizical when you mention their name.
“Richard Leonard? Nah mate, never heard of him – has he signed for The Rangers?”
First off, the leader should actually want to lead, that helps, with an ability to communicate a close second. Getting the leader right is the most important thing for political parties, they’re the face of the party, the person who sells the policies.
They don’t need to know every single chapter of the Labour Party rule book and have sold the most raffle tickets at the miner’s welfare to be leader. Jesus wept.
And just saying “for the many, not the few” and banging on about taking the buses into state-ownership ain’t going to cut it. That’s a rubbish slogan anyway, they’d be as well saying “Yes We Can’t”.
On a national level, Labour are in trouble and that disconnect with voters is rife in Scotland.
Announcing you’ve made great strides in tightening up internal procedures for dealing with complaints of an anti-semitic nature is probably not a surefire vote winner.
Scotland is crying out for a party that supports the increasing likelihood of independence, but does more than pay lip service to helping the most deprived people in the country.
One that would challenge the SNP and expose their shortcomings because, let’s face it, they’re not very good. Take Nicola out the equation and you’re left with a bunch of cooncillors.
Scottish Labour should be that party – but it’s not happening and probably never will.